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Two On Film From JOHN WYNDHAM : The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos (Village of the Damned)

"THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS" and "THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS"One novel about the human race made blind. Only to fall victim to a species of carnivorous plants that have locomotion. The other about a British village were one day every women of child baring age becomes pregnant, but by what?

The two novels were written by British author John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris. As the joke goes. Say that fast ten times. 

For these two classic works he used the pen name John Wyndham, but with such a long name. Wyndham used it to create the two other pen names of John Beynon and Lucas Parkes. The author also created the completely different unrelated pen name of John B. Harris. The one thing all four names had in common was writing Science Fiction tales starting in 1931 with the short story "Worlds to Barter". Although his earlier short stories had been sold across the pond to American "Pulp Magazines" since 1922 and not in the U.K.




THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS


There have been three screen versions of Wyndam's novel. The first was a 1962 motion picture. Followed by a BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) mini-series in 1981. In 2009 the BBC, by itself, produced the third version of "The Day of the Triffids". I will look at all three and the differences in each to each other and especially the novel.

The novel is considered Post-Apocalyptic. As with the rise of the "Triffids" the world's technology eventually collapses. Leaving the plants as the Lords of the Earth with no apparent way of destroying them.

As John Wyndam describes "Triffids". They are carnivorous plants that can reach a height of seven feet. Having a poisonous stinger that can be whipped around attacking and immediately killing their prey. The poison can also be sprayed by the plants. "Triffids" can communicate with each other and they have the ability to remove their roots from the ground and walk.

When the original novel, in December 1951 was published. Most British readers recognized the undertone of the Cold War and if not. Wyndam directly mentioned the connection through his novel's protagonist "Bill Masen". "Masen" is a bio-chemist who has spent his career, to the point of the novel's start, working with and studying "Triffids". His theory about their origin is that "Triffids" were bio-engineered in the Soviet Union and possibly from some kind of accident were released. Their seed pods slowly encircled the entire Earth.

I mentioned that, to date, there have been three filmed versions of "The Day of the Triffids", but apparently there were also two versions of the novel. Besides a "Collier's Magazine" condensed version.

The original British publication, by Michael Joseph, contains a few lines from John Wyndam to support "Bill Masen's" belief that the Soviet Union bio-engineered the plants. Thus giving the reader a definite Cold War reference.

Those few lines make reference to a real Soviet agronomist named Trofim Lysenko. Lysenko wanted to be a bio-chemist and proposed a theory during the 1920's which became known as "Lysenkoism".

 Trofim Lysenko portrait.jpg

By the 1930's "Lysenkoism" had turned into a political movement against Genetics and Science in General. From 1938 through 1956 Trofim Lysenko was the "Director/President" of  the "Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences". He had been extremely successful in increasing the crop yields of the Soviet Union. Lysenko claimed the crop increases had nothing to do with the "Science of Agronomy, but was because of  "Lysenkoism". Which was based strongly upon the rejection's of the Scientific Laws of Gregor Mendel first proposed in 1865.

Joseph Stalin bought into Trofim Lysenko. Suddenly those Scientists who didn't accept his theory were visited by the Secret Police and just disappeared. In truth the increases in the size of the Soviet crops followed "Mendel's Laws" and not Lysenko. It wasn't until 1964 that "Lysenkoism: was officially "Outlawed" in the Soviet Union.

The website "Goodreads" mentions another aspect to John Wyndham's "The Day of the Triffids" beyond it's Cold War scenario. As:


Wyndham chillingly anticipates bio-warfare and mass destruction, fifty years before their realization, in this prescient account of Cold War paranoia.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/530965.The_Day_of_the_Triffids

The novel's post-apocalyptic story becomes one of survival as "Bill Masen" while working with the normal sized "Triffids" was slightly sprayed in the eyes by their poison and had to go to the hospital. He misses a meteor shower of green meteorites seen around the globe. When morning comes "Masen" finds himself alone and the rest of the world's population, except in a few isolated cases, totally blind and now food for the "Triffids". Which have now grown from small plants to the seven feet tall variety. The novel will end on a down note as nothing has been discovered that can destroy the plants and "Bill Masen", now with a group of followers, escape to the Isle of Wight. Which for some reason is free of the "Triffids" to hopefully find a way to save what's left of the human race.
What about those film adaptions?

The first version was to have been made in 1956/1957 by Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, who would bring Sean Connery as "James Bond" to the motion picture screen in 1962's "Dr. No", and Black Listed American producer Irving Allen. Writer Jimmy Sangster who had written the screenplay for Hammer's "X-the Unknown" was hired by the two producers. He wrote a screenplay for the two producers, but stated in his 1997 autobiography: "Do You Want It Good, or Tuesday?" That he felt the script wasn't very good and had felt intimidated in attempting to reduce John Wyndham's novel into a film screenplay. Sangster would go on to write 1957's "Curse of Frankenstein", 1958's "Dracula" aka: "The Horror of Dracula" and 1959's "The Mummy" besides other Hammer Film's screenplays.

Anyone familiar with "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" either on stage or on film. Knows the following line from the opening song "Science Fiction/Double Feature":
AND I REALLY GOT HOT WHEN I SAW JANETTE SCOTT FIGHT A TRIFFID THAT SPITS POISON AND KILLS!
The actual first version of John Wyndham's novel, released in the U.K. in July 1962, has become a Cult favorite. Although it pretty much destroys the story partly due to a 93 minute running time. I admit to still enjoying this film though.

The screenplay throws out many characters, changed situations and added a double non-downer ending. It was written by Bernard Gordon. Another "Black Listed" American who could not take credit, at the time, for his screenplays. His American friend Philip Yordon, the picture's producer, "FRONTED" for him.

It is Yordan's name that shows in the films opening credits/ Instead of Gordon's in the United States release of "The Day of the Triffids". Gordon had also co-written 1956's "Earth vs the Flying Saucers" with Curt Siodmak, but that science fiction classic became the first film fronted by  Philip Yordon. This occurred a third time for the John Wayne film "Circus World" in 1964.

Yordon also "FRONTED" for Ben Maddow on George Pal's 1954 "The Naked Jungle".  Among Yordon's own classic screenplays are 1945's "Dillinger", 1951's "The Detective Story", 1958's "The Bravados", both 1961's "King of Kings" and "El Cid" and 1964's "The Fall of the Roman Empire". The last remade by Ridley Scott as "Gladiator" in 2000/ The screenplay for "Gladiator" by David Franzoni has been accused of taken word for word scenes from Yordon's original.



 

The above poster is for the American release Note in the lower right hand corner it states "Written by Philip Yordon".

The film has three main roles starting with American singer/actor Howard Keel as "Merchant Sea Captain Bill Masen" and not a British bio-chemist. Keel was best known for a string of MGM Musical motion pictures that included 1950's "Annie Get Your Gun" with Betty Hutton, 1951's "Showboat" with Kathryn Grayson and Ava Gardner , 1953's "Calamity Jane" opposite Doris Day and the same years 3-D "Kiss Me Kate" again with Kathryn Grayson and also Ann Miller. In 1954 Howard Keel was the older brother in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" with Jane Powell. Although he did other films as well and over his career several Westerns including the "War Wagon" with John Wayne and Kirk Douglas.


 

Portraying "Christine Durant" was French actress Nicole Maurey. Over her career she would appear in a combination of 65 motion pictures and television appearances. Besides this picture Maurey was known for co-starring with Charlton Heston in 1954's "Secret of the Incas". In which Heston plays "Harry Steele" the inspiration for "Indiana Jones". IF you've never seen this picture and you're a fan of the Spielberg/Lucas series. Take a look at the character Charlton Heston portrayed and especially his clothing.

The Day of the Triffids

Portraying "Susan" was 14 year old actress Janina Faye. Janina, who had been acting since 1956, had already been seen in Hammer Pictures 1958 "Dracula" aka: "Horror of Dracula". She  followed that with the 1959 comedy "The Headless Ghost". Returned to Hammer Studios for 1960's "The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll" aka: "House of Fright" and 1960's "The Hands of Orlac. Among what would be her 72 motion picture appearances.

 The Day of the Triffids

The famous quote, thank you Richard O'Brien, about Janette Scott refers to her character of "Karen Goodwin". A scientist with her husband in a subplot to the main story. When she was 13 years old. Scott was seen as James Stewart's daughter in the excellent 1951 "No Highway in the Sky". 17 year old Janette Scott portrayed "Cassandra" in Robert Wise's 1956 epic "Helen of Troy" and the year following "The Day of the Triffids". She appeared with Oliver Reed in Hammer's 1963 "Paranoiac".



Portraying "Karen Goodwin's" husband "Tom" was actor Kieron Moore. Among his many motion pictures was 1956's "Satellite in the Sky". This intelligent Science Fiction picture co-starred the future "Miss Moneypenny", Lois Maxwell. In 1959 Moore co-starred with an unknown Sean Connery in Walt Disney's "Darby O'Gill and the Little People". In 1960 he was part of the cast of "The Day They Robbed the Bank of England" with another unknown actor Peter O'Toole. Two years later O'Took was "Lawrence of Arabia". In 1961 Kieron Moore portrayed the title doctor in "Dr. Blood's Coffin" and three years after "The Day of the Triffids". He would oppose Dana Andrews' theories in "Crack in the World".


 

As to the plot that the majority of "Purist's" familiar with John Wyndham's novel seem to hate. One of the first changes Bernard Gordon needed to do for the screenplay was to create a reason for the "Triffids" being on Earth. Other than a Soviet experiment gone wrong. 
Gordon's screenplay starts with a narrator telling the audience the history of the "Triffids". They appeared after a meteor shower as an eight to twelve inch tall plant. From the novel the plants are in a greenhouse in downtown London for the stories beginning.

The next obvious change, I already mentioned, to the story has "Bill Masen" as a Captain of a Merchant Ship. As in the novel he is in a hospital bed with his eyes bandaged. For an unstated reason, in the novel he was sprayed by a "Triffid", he has had surgery on both of his eyes. His Nurse and Doctor tell him there is a beautiful Green colored meteor shower in progress, but he can't have his bandages removed until 8 AM the following morning.




Lying in bed the next day "Bill" counts Big Ben chiming 9 AM and starts calling for assistance, but gets no response from anyone. He removes his own bandages, finds his eye sight is fine and he roams the hospital in search of assistance. The place is a shambles and "Bill" will meet his now blind doctor. Who commits suicide by jumping out of a window.

Leaving the hospital "Masen" finds people walking around totally blind/ The streets otherwise deserted and panic starting to set in.




 As "Bill Masen" moves through London he goes to the train station as a speeding passenger train crashes into another one stopped on the track. When passengers discover another the girl "Susan" who has sight. A fight over her begins among them and "Bill" comes to her aide. Afterwards "Bill" is told "Susan" was a ward of the state as her parents were dead. The two join up and "Masen" becomes a surrogate father figure.

The two are walking through London and see a dog barking at something. Suddenly the dog's bark stops and they discover a strange plant standing over the dogs body. "Bill" decides to leave London and go to the unnamed town where he ship awaits.
On the deserted ship the radio is still on and a message in French comes over it. "Susan" speaks the language and hears that an evacuation point has been established in Paris. The two decide to go to France, but before they leave in a small boat. The two hear a passenger plane asking for landing instructions. The audience sees that everyone on board is blind and the plane crashes near "Bill's" ship.






Paris is now deserted and the "Triffids" run wild. They leave and come upon a women with sight and a blind girl awaiting the return of another man. Introductions are made and all go to the women's, "Christine Durant",  chateau and other survivors either with sight, or blind.

"Christine" will eventually  become "Susan's" surrogate mother. Completing the family of "Bill", "Christine" and "Susan".

At one point "Bill" along with one of the chateau's occupants a "Mr. Coker", Merlin Jones. Go out haunting for food and discover a meteor crater with hundreds of little "Triffids" growing. In the wind seed pods are blowing over the landscape. The two find themselves surrounded by the plants. As they attempt to escape "Coker" hurts his foot and as he's being carried by "Bill". A "Triffid" sprays him with poison killing the man.



As "Bill" continues to walk back to the chanteuse he hears loud music. A group of French convicts, who were in cells and couldn't witness the green meteor shower, have taken over the chateau. "Masen" enters and meets up with "Susan". He is able to get "Christine" safely out as the convicts party with the blind women. Outside the three leave witness a blind girl, "Susan" had befriended, killed by the "Triffids".



The Apocalyptic Family of "Bill", "Christine" and "Susan" drive away as the "Triffids" break into the chateau. They now head for Toulon where a Naval Base is located. Only to find it destroyed.

 

Eventually the three will go to Spain and meet a blind husband and wife. She is pregnant and delivers a baby boy. After luring the "Triffids" from the Spanish Estate all five will be rescued by British submarines.

Returning to Bernard Gordon's original screenplay. Apparently the film was going to be too short for the producers after it was initially edited. As a result Gordon was instructed to expand his story and he created the husband and wife team of  "Tom" and "Karen Goodwin".

To avoid having expensive re-shoots with the other cast. The added sequences placed the "Goodwin's" on an isolated Lighthouse off the coast of Cornwall. The opening credits for the motion picture state that "Special Arrangement" was made to use both Janette Scott and Kieron Moore. Whose credits appeared after the other main actor's names.

Before I go into their subplot. I would like to make two points. As my reader will discover when I discuss the 1960 "Village of the Damned". A shorter tighter movie can work just as well and perhaps better than an expanded motion picture. The second point is when this movie cuts to the "Goodwin's". The story of "Bill", "Susan" and "Christine"  looses continuity. It as if we have two films in progress and if you take the total screen time of  Scott and Moore. I don't think you have twenty minutes out of what became a ninety-three minute feature. 

Basically we have "Karen" and "Tom" cut off except by Radio from the rest of the world. They hear about the plants and one morning "Karen" sees one outside on the lighthouse rocks. When she gets "Tom" to come and look. It is gone and they two go back into the lighthouse to find the large plant inside.

The "Triffid" attacks and "Moore" fights back with anything he can find. Janette Scott screams a lot as Kieron Moore battles and kills the "Triffid" by cutting it's head off. 

 

The husband and wife team have been arguing a lot, prior to the "Triffids" arrival, about his work. "Tom" also feels trapped, until the supply ship arrives, in the lighthouse. Now they have a purpose and work together to determine what the plant is and how to destroy them.

While the two are sleeping the plant comes back to life and reassembles itself. It escapes outside and will start to multiply. The broken door and all the lower windows are boarded up as the two scientists are now prisoners of the "Triffids".

All of this action is inter cut with the other story. So it becomes piece mill. Appearing, just as it was written, to be added material to fill out the length of the motion picture.

We now come to the double ending.

As I wrote above what I call the Apocalyptic family was saved by the British submarines. The first ending and the original to the first screenplay's story. Immediately the film cuts back to the final attack on the "Goodwin's". As the "Triffids" break down the barricades and start pushing "Tom" and "Karen" higher up the lighthouse. In a desperate move "Tom" grabs the Salt Water Hose, marked Corrosive, and sprays the nearest plant. It starts to dissolve. The second ending.

Now don't get me wrong, as I said I like this picture, BUT if Salt Water can kill "Triffids". An "Tom" and "Karen" are living in a lighthouse off of Cornwall. WHY are there any "Triffids" around them? Wouldn't common sense say that salt water would be splashing against the lighthouse even in calm weather? Had there been just one heavy storm it should have been bye, bye "Triffids".

In short don't try to analyse the picture. Just enjoy the ride.

The 1981 BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) mini-series.
 

This version of John Wyndham's novel was divided into six parts for a total running time of two hours and thirty-six minutes, or an hour and three minutes longer than the 1962 motion picture.

"Bill Masen" was portrayed by John Duttine. Duttine was known to BBC viewers for his roles in many mini-series starting in 1973. Among those, beside "The Day of the Triffids", were portraying "John the Baptist" in a 1977 six hour and twenty-two minute mini series "Jesus of Nazareth"., It was made in Italy and shown in both the U.K. and the United States. He was "Hindley Earnshaw" in four parts of the five part "Wuthering Heights" in the following year and starred in the extremely popular thirteen part "To Serve Them All My Days". About a returning World War 1 shell shocked soldier.



The role of "Joella Payton", a character not seen in the 1962 film and used by critics to say how bad that screenplay is.  was played by Emma Relph. I will explain shortly their reasoning. Emma is best known for this role and one other in the excellent British motion picture, from 1990, "Witches" starring Anjelica Huston and based upon a Ronald Dahl, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "James and the Giant Peach", children's story.




 "Jack Coker" was portrayed by Maurice Colbourne. To American audiences Colbourne was best known as "Commander Lytton" in four episodes of the fifth "Dr. Who", Peter Davidson, in 1984 and 1985. The actor had a very small role in a forgotten fantasy/adventure film starring Jack Palance. This was 1980's "Hawk the Slayer" released by ITC Entertainment among his other work.




Lorna Yabsley played the role of "Susan". "The Day of the Triffids" was Lorna's ninth screen appearance since 1978 and next to her last. She became a photographer who pioneered what is known as "The Reportage" style of wedding pictures and established a photographic company in Devon, England.



The backstory for "Bill Masen" is close to John Wyndham's. He is a worker on a "Triffid Farm" and although wearing protective clothing. He is stung and some of the plant's poison gets in his eyes. When the audience first sees "Bill" he is in the hospital with bandaged eyes.



At the mini-series begins the Green meteorite shower occurs and most of the population of the world goes blind from watching it. "Bill" reaches the time the doctors are to remove his bandages, but instead of them coming there is an eerie silence throughout his room and the hospital. On his own "Bill" removes his bandages and discovers a deserted hospital. After dressing, he goes out to find the blind everywhere and in parts of the city "Triffids" attacking, killing and feeding off the blind.







 As in the novel "Bill" is wandering the streets of London and comes across a sighted young women being forced to guide blind people, He gets the young women away from the others, but this is "Josella 'Joe' Playton" and not "Susan". It is "Joe" that will become "Bill's" lover and not "Christine Durant". "Jo" had been at a party and gotten so drunk she passed out before having a chance to observe the meteorite shower.





John Wyndham described "Jo" as in her mid 20's and from a wealthy family. She had gained notoriety by writing a raunchy novel "Sex is My Adventure".

"Bill" and "Jo" find a group of sighted people. They plan to create a community in the country away from London and reestablish civilization, but will not take his warning of how serious the "Triffid's" really are.

One of the sighted group is "Jack Coker" and he is against leaving the city. He wants to establish a safe colony within London and help the blind populace. In John Wyndham's novel his name is actually "Wilfred Coker".




After being rebuked by "Masen" and the other group. "Coker" and some of his followers capture "Bill" and "Jo". "Coker" has "Bill" handcuffed to two blind people to use him as their guide and "Joe" is placed in a different group going to a different location. The two groups go separate ways.

At this point the "Triffid's" have completly broken loose and begin attacking sightless people. Also a strange disease has broken out and as a result of both. "Bill" finds most of his blind group eventually dead and is able to now go find "Jo". "Jack" has realized his plan to help the blind didn't go as planned and offers to help the other. The two men start a search and drive out of London for the countryside.

The two come across some of the original people that left London. There are now two groups though of different beliefs. The first main body is under "Michael Beadly", David Swift, and they are establishing rules for survival. One of them is that polygamy may be the only way to keep the human race alive. As there are more women than men in the group. In short, as John Wyndham describes "Michael Beadly". "Beadly" is extremely cynical about what is happening and believes in Darwin's survival of the fittest.



The second group split from "Beadly's", because they do not believe in polygamy. Here comes another character change form 1962. The leader of the group is not a young French women named "Christine Durant", but "Miss Florence Durant", Perlita Neilson.



John Wyndham describes "Durant" as a somewhat ultra religious person. She is against the idea of multiple partners for survival and her religious philosophies will, in the novel, cause her group to die out completely. "Jack" and "Bill" continue their  search for "Jo", but to no avail. As a result "Jack"  leaves and returns to "Durant's" community believing in her ideas.

Now on his own "Bill Masen" continues his search and comes upon "Susan".  As I wrote above when she appeared in the 1962 motion picture Janina Faye was 14 years old. In this mini-series actress Lorna Yabsley was 17 years old. In his novel Wyndham described "Susan" as a 9 to 10 year old girl. In the novel she has a brother who is killed by the "Triffids" and develops both a hatred for them and a wisdom beyond her years.

As the two continue on together. "Bill" finally remembers that "Jo" had talked about a place her friends had in the Sussex Downs. The two go there and he is reunited with his love. For their survival "Bill" erects a protective fence around the farm and the three settle down. Over time "Bill" and "Jo" decide to raise a family. The three turn into a small group of followers that continues to grow in the safety of the farm.

Six years past without major incident. When a helicopter with "Jack Coker" arrives. He tells them that "Miss Durant's" group has been wiped out by the "Triffid's", but that "Beadley's" group has settled on the Isle of Wight. They have been able to kill off all the mobile "Triffids" and control any new before they become a problem. As the situation is deteriorating on the Sussex Downs. "Bill", "Joe" and "Susan" decide to go to the Isle of Wight to live.

However, before they can leave several uniformed men arrive in an armored car. They are setting up a feudal society of those with sight as an aristocrat. Each will "rule" over ten blind people. These men plan is to assign blind people to "Bill" and "Jo" and remove "Susan" to a learning center to be taught the proper way to treat and handle the blind. "Bill" pretends to go along with them and brings out drinks. After the men are drunk. "Bill", his family and the group are able to drive away from the farm. As  the group drive past the fence. "Bill" leaves it open which will permit the "Triffid's" to finally gain entrance.


"The Day of the Triffids" in 2009.


On December 28, 2009 the first of a two part, three hour, adaption of John Wyndham;s novel appeared on BBC television.The screenplay was by Patrick Harbinson. He produced and wrote on several American television series. Such as "ER", the original "24", "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" and "Homeland". His screenplay takes the basic plot ideas of the original novel, but in a way like Bernard Gordon. Harbinson rewrites the story to fit the world situation and ideas of 2009.

Looking at the characters my reader is familiar with starts with Dougray Scott as "Bill Masen". The Scottish actor was seen in the United States in the 2006 television mini-series "The Ten Commandments" as " Moses". He appeared in several episodes of "Desperate Housewives" and played the title roles in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde" on the BBC in 2008.

  

Once again "Bill Masen" somewhat changes in character as the viewer discovers his back story. In the late 1970's a women was killed in Zaire by a "Triffid". She was "Bill's" mother and as a result he has become a "Triffid" expert. There is a young "Bill" in part one for the backstory.

Portraying British Radio Personality "Jo Playton" was Joely Richardson. American audiences were familiar with the actress in 1991's "King Ralph" starring John Goodman and Peter O'Tolle, the 1997 science fiction film "Event Horizon" starring Lawrence Fishburne and Sam Neil and Mel Gibson's 2000's "The Patriot".



Canadian Actor Jason Priestley of "Beverly Hills, 90210" fame, 1993 through 1997, and other programs was cast as "Coker". No first name is given.




Portraying "Susan", who doesn't appear until the middle of part two is Jenn Murray. She is an actress from Northern Ireland. Murray had been appearing on several British television series prior to this one. "Susan" is not the little girl of either of the previous versions of "The Day of the Triffids", but one of two orphaned girls who almost kill "Bill" with rifles at first sight. Also she is the oldest actress, 25 at the time, to portray the character.




The fifth main character is "Durrant" portrayed by six time nominated Academy Award actress, includes one win for Best Actress for 1977's "Julia", Vanessa Redgrave. Who would have 139 film and television credits in her career. These include playing "Ann Boleyn" in the 1966 movie "A Man for All Seasons" starring Robert Shaw and Paul Scofield and "Guenevere" in the 1967 musical movie version of Lerner and Lowe's "Camelot" starring Richard Harris.

"Durrant" is the "Mother Superior" of a religious colony.


 

Looking at the screenplay. "Bill" explains that the "Triffids" were turned into a fuel that ended Global Warming. Apparently there are male and female plants and the two sexes are kept separated in warehouses around the world. The sexes are mated under controlled conditions to create the plants used to make this alternative fuel.

However, there are activists that protest the treatment of the "Triffids" and attempt to free them. Also as with the previous mini-series there is no real explanation as to how they appeared on the planet in the first place.

The changed story line continues when one of the activists breaks into a "Triffid" warehouse for male plants and is arrested. However, "Bill" is injured in the process by one of the plants. He has given his safety glasses to a co-worker "Security Officer Lucy", Irish actress Nora-Jane Noonan.



"Bill" is rushed to the hospital and given a 50-50 chance to see again. His eyes are bandaged and he misses not a Green meteorite shower, but a Solar Eruption of the Sun. The rays from the sun, seen across the world, prove to be more dangerous that the scientists thought the rays would be. This causes blindness to 95% of the Earth's population.

As this is happening an airplane in flight is covered by the solar flare blinding everyone on board, but one man played by Eddie Lizard. He has claimed into the toilet and covered his eyes and body with life vests to hopefully survive the crash that is coming. He does and changes his name to "Torrance" after the now destroyed Westminster Road.



In the hospital "Bill" has regained his sight, but hasn't a clue as to what happened. He leaves the hospital into a world of blind London. "Bill" comes across a group of blind people forcing a women, "Jo", to help them. He rescues "Jo" from the situation and finds out she was in the London Underground, subway, during the solar flare and didn't watch it.



As the two move through London and realize the size of the blindness. "Bill" starts to realize that the electricity at the warehouses may be down releacing the male and female "Triffids". As they start toward the warehouse a lighted signal from University Tower is seen. It's a message to those with sight to come there. The two change directions and head for the tower.

 

Upon arriving at University Tower "Jo" and "Bill" find the remnants of the British Civil Service. Who can still see and members of the military. They want to keep all of the people with sight together, under them, to continue the human race. "Bill" attempts to explain that the "Triffids" must be loose and will be moving through London, but nobody seems to care about his warning. While the new leaders of England are discussing their plans. "Bill" has the opportunity to get out and is captured by "Coker" outside of the tower. "Coker" wants "Bill" to help round up survivors and supplies, but also remains unconcerned about a danger from the plants.



 
So ends the first part of the 2009 version. The following night the story concluded.

"Bill" and "Coker" are almost killed by attacking "Triffids". The two men then join together and go to "Durrant's" religious colony.





"Bill" is still worried about the "Triffids". That he now realizes will reproduce faster, because around the colony is a cluster of bee hives to cross pollinate them without controlled mating. So he decides to leave the community and find his estranged father. but outside of the colony "Bill" finds the body of its founder. He was sacrificed by "Durrant" to the "Triffids" as a means of gaining her power. "Bill" then returns to the colony and confronts the "Mother Superior" in front of the populace. She is now force to leave as the truth is known. "Bill" then continues to look for his father still without "Coker".

As some days pass "Bill" is almost killed by two orphans. One is of course "Susan" and the other is "Imogen", played by 13 year old Julie Joyce.



The three continue on together and are ambushed by a strange figure. He turns out to be "Bill's" father "Dennis". Like "Imogen". an entirely new character not in the novel. "Dennis" is portrayed by Brain Cox. Fans of the original "X-Man" movies know Cox for the role of "William Stryker" in 2003's "X-Man 2".




The three return to "Shirning House Farm" and "Bill" is reunited with "Jo". She tells him about narrowly escaping from "Torrence's" gang the night before and ended up at the farm. "Dennis" reveals his plans to genetically create a new species of "Triffid" that will neutralize the current form.



"Bill" doesn't think it will work, but agrees to assist. "Coker" shows up and drops off some papers about a new colony on the Isle of Wight. Where all the "Triffids" have been exterminated.

"Dennis Masen" is using a single male "Triffid" head brought to him by "Bill" in his genetic experiment. He also reveals to his son that he has the original tapes made by his mother in Zaire, "Bill" hears a cry from  his father's workshop and enters to find him stung by the new "Triffid". Apparently it reacted to some of the sounds on the recording. "Dennis" dies and the test subject "Triffd" is destroyed. There is no other option left for "Bill's" small group, but to go to the Isle of Wight.

Just as the decision is made. "Torrance" and his men show up.



"Torrance" wants the solution to the "Triffids", but "Bill" won't let him know what his father has possibly discovered. "Torrance" then gives "Bill" an ultimatum, if he doesn't tell him by the following morning. "Bill", "Jo" and the two girls will be killed.

"Bill" plans to use his mother's recordings to lure the "Triffids" in to the farms as a diversion. While his small group plus one still good rookie from "Torrence's" men escape.

The plan revolves around a memory "Bill" has from a 30 year old meeting with a tribal witch doctor. "Imogen" has found an old mask that young "Bill" used to have. There is something about using it to see clearly even if you have "Triffid" poison in your eyes.

"Bill" next tries the incantation with the mask on himself and it works. He then has each of the others repeat the process. Just before the last of "Bill's" group finishes the incantation. "Torrance" and men are attacked by the plants. The five protected by the power of the mask walk harmlessly through the "Triffids" that just ignore them.

The story than cuts to the Isle of Wight. Which is blocked off from the plants and the mainland by a 
two and a half to five mile wide body of water known as the "Solent". The viewer sees "Bill" wondering about how "Blind" the world was to the "Triffid" threat. Even with their EYES OPEN.


In September 2010 "Variety" announced a planned 3-D version of  "The Day of the Triffids". The internet is still full of stories about Sam Raimi acquiring the rights to the novel for a 2012 release. As of January 2018 neither project has been made.


 
THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS aka: THE VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED

In 1957 another novel was published by John Wyndha, entitled "The Midwich Cuckoos".


TheMidwichCuckoos.jpg

The first point to explain is the novels title. "Midwich" is the fictional English town the story takes place in. "Cuckoos" refers to the bird of that name and is used by Wyndham, because the bird lays its eggs in another bird's nest to let them to the work of hatching their young.

The novel starts with two traffic accidents blocking the only road into and out of "Midwich". When an ambulance driver can't reach either, but instead becomes unconscious. The military is notified that some form of poison gas may be in use for an unknown reason. During a fly over by military aircraft a silver colored object is seen directly in the center of what has been determined as a 2 mile square zone causing people to become unconscious. This has affected the entire town of Midwich.

The following day both the object and the inability to enter "Midwich" has disappeared. The townspeople have no idea that anything happened and are medically healthy. Except a few months later every women of childbearing age is pregnant.

Children are born looking as follows according to the author:

They have unusual "Golden Eyes" and "Pales Silvery Skin". As they grow the children develop telepathic abilities and also can control the actions of others. The number of children are 31 boys and 30 girls and the are divided into two groups by their sex. Each sex has its own "Group Mind" as all the girls know what the other girls are thinking and the same works for the boys. Each sex also has its own leader.

Military Intelligence has determined four other incidents have occurred in the world. One in a Inuit settlement in the Canadian arctic. The children were all killed at birth. One in a Mongolian village were both the children and their mothers were killed. Another in a Russian town were an accidental Nuclear accident occurs killing everyone. The last in Australia were the babies died at birth. Apparently some genetic process did not work there.

In the novel it is an elderly man "Gordon Zellaby", with only weeks to live due to a heart condition, who realizes the children must be killed. As they have become a threat to "Midwich" and the rest of the world. "Zellaby" has won their trust and he sets a bomb inside a room they use. While showing a film on the Greek Islands the bomb goes off killing the children and "Zellaby".

In June 1960 the first motion picture version of John Wyndom's novel was shown in a Special Engagement at the "Ritz Cinema" in Leicester Square, London, under the title of the:

"Village of the Damned"!

This "A" Certificate, "Adults Only", in some communities of the U.K., 77 minute black and white motion picture had a total budget of $320,000 i
n United States dollars . The movie would make a World wide box office of $2,175,000 upon its initial release.

Below is one of the British posters without the "A" Certificate rating showing.




The movie was released on Wednesday, December 7, 1960, in the United States. On Saturday, December 10th 14 year old Lloyd saw this feature. As there was no age restriction in on the picture in the United States.





The first motion picture version of "The Midwich Cuckoos" was actually supposed to have been made in the United States. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had scheduled pre-production to begin in 1957. Popular 1930's British actor Ronald Coleman: 1935's "A Tale of Two Cities" and Frank Capra's 1937 classic "Lost Horizon" was to play the lead. However, Christian Religious Groups disapproved of "The Sinister Depiction of Virgin Birth". So the film was moved to MGM's British Studios to be made. In the U.K. the studio knew they would have to deal with the Censors, but production would not be protested against.

The film was directed by German actor/director Wolf Rilla. He had some input on the screenplay by American writer Stirling Silliphant. Silliphant is best known for his Academy Award winning screenplay for the 1967 movie "In the Heat of the Night", His other screenplays include "The Killer Elite", "Telefon" and the "Dirty Harry" entry "The Enforcer". Stirling Silliphant created the television shows "Route 66", "The Naked City" and "Longstreet" during the 1960's, besides working on "Playhouse 90", "Perry Mason" and other television programs.

Logic and budget would get the number of children from 61 to 12. Six Boys and Six Girls. Silliphant than made some minor changes, but one that makes the relationship between "Gordon Zellaby" and the children closer and the ending stronger. He creates a single leader for the group "David". Who is also "Zellaby's" son. As "Gordon's" wife gave birth to him and she becomes the third major character of the screenplay.

Cast as "Gordon" was Russian born British actor George Sanders. Getting this role has an interesting twist to it. The original actor considered for the part Roland Coleman had died in 1958. Sanders was now married to his widow.

The accomplish actor had appeared in Alfred Hitcock's 1940 "Rebecca", Had portrayed "Simon Templar" aka: "The Saint" for RKO, a similar mystery anti-hero "Gay Lawrence: known as "The Falcon" in another series. Sanders co-starred in the 1944 classic "The Lodger" about "Jack the Ripper" and another classic in 1945's "The Picture of Dorian Gray". Made him perfect to carry the picture in the role.



Portraying the created character of "Anthea Zellaby" was Barbara Shelley. She would become Hammer Films number one female actress starting in 1964. Prior to this MGM production Shelley had been seen in both Hammer's 1958 "The Camp on Blood Island" and "Blood of the Vampire". Later she would be in "Dracula, Prince of Darkness", "The Gorgon", "Quatermass and the Pitt" aka: "Five Million Years to Earth" and other productions.


Playing the pivotal role of "David Zellaby" was Martin Stephens.  

  

Stephens had ten motion picture appearances prior to this feature film at the age of eleven. He had just turned nine when he was featured in "Harry Black and the Tiger", in 1958, starring Stewart Granger and Barbara Rush. In 1961 following "Village of the Damned". Stephens would scare the hell out of Deborah Kerr and the audience in "The Innocents". His last on screen appearance was as "Ronnie Dowsett" in 1966's "The Witches" starring Anjelica Huston. He retired from acting after filming that movie.
Portraying the fourth major character in the film of "Army Intelligence Officer Major Alan Bernard" was Michael Gwynn. His was another face associated with Hammer studios. Gwynn had appeared with Barbara Shelley in the World War 2 drama "The Camp on Blood Island".

For those fans of Hammer horror. Michael Gwynn may be best known for portraying the new body that the brain of the hunchback "Karl" is placed in by Victor Frankenstein. The actor had to regresses from handsome to appearing in a form like the original hunchback the brain came from. The picture was 1958's "The Revenge of Frankenstein", The direct sequel to 1957's "Curse of Frankenstein". That picture starts exactly at the previous films ending, but telling us Peter Cushing's "Victor Frankenstein" did not die.

Below Michael Gwynn in "The Revenge of Frankenstein". The left after the initial surgery and the right near the end of the feature.



Below the actor in 1960's "Village of the Damned".



Smartly Stirling Silliphant's screenplay leaves out that silver object observed in the center of the town of Midwich. Thereby, not giving the audience an idea of Outer Space Aliens and turning the story in to a very tight mystery. The other major factor is Silliphant's decision to concentrate on character rather than action. Allowing the audience to better understand "David" and "Gordon" at the film's conclusion.

The screenplay starts with "Gordon" attempting to make a call to his brother-in-law "Army Major Alan Bernard". Cut to other people going about their normal lives and then cut back to "Gordon". He has finally gotten through to "Bernard" and as they are speaking he suddenly faints.  Everyone in the village of Midwich has become unconscious. Any person entering the village also falls unconscious. What's going on?



"Major Bernard" passes a "Bobby" come to investigate among other things a bus that did not arrive. Both men see the bus crashed into a tree. As the "Bobby" approaches the bus he suddenly falls unconscious. "Bernard" calls his superior and the army starts to block a safe area around Midwich.




A soldier with a rope around his waist walks toward the unconscious "Bobby" and the crashed bus. As "Bernard" and the other soldiers watch the town doctor, "Dr. Willers", Lawrence Naismith, arrives. He has been out of town visiting other patients. The soldier has on a gas mask for protection, but still falls unconscious after crossing the safety zone line.








An airplane is sent over Midwich for observation.



When the pilot lowers his flight to 5,000 feet he also become unconscious and crashes. Another change to John Wyndham's novel comes in changing the unconsciousness from 24 hours to only 4 hours. Again tightening the novel's story without really changing it. Suddenly everyone regains consciousness and the doctor certifies that the soldier is ok, but he complains about being cold. "Zellaby" and his wife believe they oddly fainted at the same time as here brother arrives to tell them what has actually occurred,

Two months pass and "Dr, Willers" is confronted with the fact that all the women of child bearing age are now pregnant. This of course includes "Anthea Zellaby". Another discovery are that the fetuses are perfect. In fact too perfect.




Married women, in one case with a man has been at sea in the Merchant Marines for a year, are accused of infidelity. In one case a teenage girl who is still a virgin is also pregnant. It is her character in both the novel and original screenplay. That many Christian groups complained about and the character was needed to make a point about women of child bearing age getting pregnant by some unknown force.

When the women are checked five months into their pregnancy's. All of them have the fetuses of a seven month term. Later all the women deliver their children on the same day.

As I mentioned above. In John Wyndham's novel he describes the 61 children as all having "Golden Eyes" and "Pale Silvery Skin" and without any of the genetic characteristics of their human mothers. For the motion picture the skin color of the children would not be really noticeable on black and white film, or if it was. It might be laughable. So a cinematic look was needed to be found.

Instead of "Golden Eyes: described by Wyndham. Silliphant just writes "Arresting Eyes" leaving what he means to the make-up artists, but has "Gordon Zellaby" use the phrase.

The classic make-up for the children was designed and executed by Eric Aylott. He would only work on 18 motion pictures between 1948 and 1960. Aylott actually had a cosmetic company with his father and that became his main line of work.

While the wigs worn by the children were designed by Joan Johnstone. Johnstone was a major hairstylist/wig designer and hairdresser for motion pictures going back to 1943. Among Johnstone's work, prior to this motion picture, were 1951's "Qua Vadis" starring Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr, 1952's "Ivanhoe" starring Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor and 1958's "Indiscreet" starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. Joan Johstone's wigs contained a raised area to give the "Children" are slight, but noticeable alien look.

The result was a classic recognized look that would be copied in the remake, parodied in "The Simpsons" and on other shows.








Returning to the plot is is now three years after the original Midwich incident "Gordon Zellaby" attends a meeting with British Military Intelligence" where he learns of the other colonies and the deaths of the "Children" and in one case their mother's also. Only the Soviet and British remain. It is at this meeting the Silliphant's screenplay finally addresses the alien idea, but also the possibility of a genetic mutation of some sort. Where the "Children" might be some future version of the human race. 



Now at the age of three the children are mental equivalent of a child of twelve, but starting to also exhibit mind control especially over their mothers. In a test for a piece of chocolate by opening a complicated puzzle that "Gordon" has and his brother-in-law couldn't do until shown the answer. First the little girl below does it with ease in just over a minute. Then in the same household that had two women give bird. "Gordon" replaces the chocolate and hands the puzzle to a boy. However, the human brother of one of the two "Children" grabs it away. He wants the chocolate for himself.




As "Gordon" and "Alan" watch in both amazement and horror. The two other "Children's" eyes start to glow and through mind control. They make the other boy give back the puzzle box.


 
Strange deaths in Midwich start to occur and locals believe the "Children" are behind it.They have a right to think this. In one case a man almost hits one of the girl's with his car. The "Children" make him crash his into a wall. "Anthea Zellaby" has witnessed this and her mind is corrected to tell a different story at any inquest.

Then the driver's brother who has become suspicious that the "Children" were behind the death. Is mentally forced to kill himself with a shot gun.











"Gordon" believes there is a reason for the "Children" being born and wants to learn from them. Through "David" he sets up a building for all of them to live together and he will become their teacher.

"Alan Bernard" watches a group of men attempt to burn down the school. "David" comes out and suddenly the leader drops his burning bundle of branches and they catch him on fire. "Bernard" confronts the "Children" and discovers they know about the Soviet Union  deaths. Which he had only heard about a short while ago from a phone call at "Gordon's" house. "Bernard" tries to explain to the group what laws are about and how they can also be protected by them, but they mentally send him into a state of shock as a warning to the military and British government of their power.




The town  doctor examines "Alan" and determined he is coming out of shock and should be alright. "David" comes to the house to explain the reasons behind their actions. He tells his "Father" that "Gordon" is to arrange new homes for each of the "Children" around England and leaves.

At this point "Gordon Zellaby" realizes that the "Children" must be destroyed, but how as they can read his mind. He puts together a bomb in a briefcase he always brings into their school room. "David" reads his "Father's" mind and discovers he is thinking of a Brick Wall, but he cannot penetrate that thought. The other "Children" join "David's" mind and form a strong "Hive Mind". We see the brick wall double exposed over George Sanders' face below as it starts breaking away.



However,  "Gordon" holds his thought in place. Just when the wall is finally broken through by the "Children" and they see the bomb. It goes off killing everyone.

The motion picture ends with an eerie shot of the "Children's Eyes" floating in the smoke of the bomb blast.

 


Depending upon whose rating you read. The 1960 "Village of the Damned" maintains a three to three and half stars out of four. The film holds a 96% Fresh rating on "Rotten Tomatoes".

Below from  the Season 10 episode of "The Simpsons" entitled "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken". On the Drive-In movie screen is a horror film called "The Bloodening". It's about a group of weird children speaking with British accents.



The 1960 film version of John Wyndham's "The Midwich Cuckoos" inspired a sequel, of sorts, released four years later, but first I will look at the remake made 35 years after the original first.


John Carpenter's 1995 Village of the Damned


I mentioned, during my discussion of the 1962 "The Day of the Triffids", that shorter can be better in some  motion pictures. The original British version of "Village of the Damned" ran 77 minutes. John Carpenter's version ran 22 minutes longer at 99 minutes.

I enjoy John Carpenter's films which are in many cases very imaginative. Two examples being 1986's "Big Trouble In Little China". The Kurt Russell comedy inspired a great parody "Chinatown Ghost Story" in the Second Season of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" on September 12, 2014. A flawed favorite of mine is Carpenter's "They Live" and anyone familiar with John Campbell, Jr's. novella "Who Goes There?". Can not forget John Carpenter's 1982 sequel to Howard Hawks' "The Thing from Another World". However, occasionally he errors.




Not clear on the above poster is the name above the words "Village of the Damned", but on screen it is clear this is not John Wyndham's story, but---



The screenplay was by David Himmelstein with of course input by Carpenter. Himmelstein only has a total of six screen writing credits. His first was the screenplay for Richard Gere's 1986's "Power". It would five years later before he wrote his second screenplay and another four years until "Village of the Damned". Himmelstein would write a screenplay for a forgotten 1996 made for television movie in 1996 and than it wouldn't be until 2002 before he wrote the screenplay for the Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock movie "Bad Company". As of this year, 2018, there is a picture entitled "My Name is Sara" being filmed with another David Himmelstein screenplay.

"John Carptenter's Village of the Damned" moved the British novel's setting to Northern California. While still calling the United States community Midwich. This Midwich is located on the picturesque California coast line in Marin County. Which makes a beautiful back drop for the action and counters the "Horror" of the story, because most reviewers used that word instead of calling the motion picture "Science Fiction".

There are several differences besides the setting between the two screenplays. One is a comparison of the implied violence in the 1960 motion picture as compared to the on screen "Graphic", key word, violence in 1995. In the 1960 film, as I previously mentioned, a man is killed by driving his car into a wall and it explodes This is followed by his brother being forced to kill himself by placing a shot gun below his chin, but in both cases the audience never sees either borther afterwards. The audience's imagination is in play. While in the 1995 screenplay a mother is made to graphically set herself on fire and another character to cut herself open.

An argument could be made that graphic violence was expected in the 1990's, but does it really move  the story along using it?

A major change in David Himmelstein's screenplay is placing the women of Midwich as the main characters. Along with creating a female government investigator and changing the leader of the "Children" to "Mara" and not "David". In 1995 the screenplay was able to use "Virgin Birth" which that had stopped the 1960 release being made in the United States, but there were still plenty of protests including from the "Christian Science Monitor".

Looking at the main characters:

"Dr. Alan  Chaffree" the town's only doctor was portrayed by Christopher Reeve.




This was to be his final motion picture before the actor, forever associated with the 1978 to 1987 "Superman" motion picture series, was thrown from  a horse and becoming, sadly, a quadriplegic.

Kirstie Alley portrayed the government investigator epidemiologist "Dr. Susan Verner".




Alley known for the television series "Cheers" and the "Look Who's Talking" movies among other works. Had been seen the previous year in the television ovie "David's Mother". About an estranged mother raising her autistic son. "Village of the Damned" was a hundred degree change from that story and the majority of her other roles.

Portraying  "Jill McGowan", the mother of "David", was Linda Kazlowski.



Kazlowski is best known for portraying "Sue Charlton" who becomes Australian actor Paul Hogan's wife in the "Crocodile Dundee" series. She also became Hogan's real life wife until their divorce in 2014.

"Reverend George" was portrayed by Mark Hamill.



Mark Hamill, who for "Star Wars" fans, will always be "Luke Skywalker". Has made very few live action feature films, but became a very successful voice actor. This work started after completing "Return of the Jedi" in 1983. Among Hamill's many animated voices is "Batman's" foe "The Joker" in many animated features and animated shorts. His voice is heard on the video game series "Wing Commander" and in episodes of  "The Animated Blues Brothers", "The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest", "The Powerpuff Girls", "Scooby-Doo" and "The Woody Woodpecker Show".

The two main "Children" are "David" and "Marla".

"David McGowan" was portrayed by Thomas Dekkar.



This was the young actor's fourth motion picture. The year before he portrayed Patrick Stewart's son in the motion picture "Star Trek: Generations". To date Dekkar has 69 acting credits, 3 as a director and 2 as a screenplay writer.

"Mara Chaffree" was portrayed by Lindsey Haun.



This was the young actresses 8th role. Prior to "Village of the Damned". Lindsey was seen on the television series "Melrose Place". After this film  she portrayed the young "Barbara Mandrell" in the 1997 biographic movie on the singer's life. Lindsey's father is Jimmy Haun of the group "Air Supply".

Below Hillary Harvey as a one year old "Mara".



Below Bradley Wilhelm as one year old "David".



The looks of the children are described as having pale skin, white hair and cobalt eyes.

Hairstylist Charlotte Gravenor bleached all nine child actors hair and then applied white hairspray to obtain the color she wanted. This was necessary as John Carpenter was shooting in color. The make-up was actually under the control of Special Effects Artist Bruce Nicholson. Who had won an Oscar for "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and previously received a Special Achievement Oscar for "The Empire Strikes Back". The eye effect didn't work as well as Nicholson and Greg Nicotero wanted. A problem the 1960 original didn't have partly because it was in black and white.






In the 1960 film the purpose of the children is speculative, but reflects the paranoia of the "Cold War Era". While in John Carpenter's film it is clearly World domination. The problem with using that idea is that four years prior to the picture's release. The "Cold War" had officially ended with the break up of the Soviet Union. American's had no major fears and were basically content under the Clinton Administration with a growing 1995 economy.

The paranoia of the 1950's that was reflected in both of John Wyndham's novels was no longer a valid motivation. In 1995 there was no major Foreign threat, as yet, to the United States from International Terrorism. Yes, only 9 days prior to Carpenter's motion pictures release on April 28th. There had been the "Oklahoma City Bombing", but that was domestic terrorism. Timothy McVeigh was not looking for World Domination as the Soviet Union had from 1946 through 1991.

Watching "John Carpenter's Village of the Damned" the audience is faced instead with a 1950's style "Alien" take over. Which had previously been done with various success in such movies as  1951's "The Man from Planet X", 1951's "The Thing from Another World", 1953's "War of the Worlds" and in 1954 "Target Earth".

The audience is directly told that "World Domination" by this "Alien Race' is their motivation. When "Mara" informs her human mother of their goal. Again this idea had been handled previously, with a little McCarthyism thrown in, by director Don Siegel in possibly a more frightening concept 1956's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". True that was 39 years prior to Carpenter's motion picture, but Siegel's movie was showing up on television and more to the point. There had been the 1978 and 1993 sequels.

Reviewer Lloyd Paseman had the same feeling I did about the movie's 1950's tone. In his May 5, 1995 review in the Eugene, Oregon newspaper the "Eugene Register Guard":
not unlike most of the science-fiction/horror movies Hollywood churned out for a mostly teen-age audience during the 1950s and into the early '60s

The story begins with a six hour blackout for the populace of  Midwich and "Jill McGowan's" husband being killed in a one car traffic accident as a result. "Dr. Alan Chaffee" was on his way home and comes across a police roadblock of Midwich. Where he meets "Dr. Susan Verner". Who seems to know more than she's letting on. Such as how come she's even there at this point. As I said "Verner" is an epidemiologist. Which is the study and analysis of the distribution and determinants of health and disease in a defined population.






Shortly afterwards ten women are discovered to be pregnant including a women who is a virgin. A Government Scientific Team arrives in Midwich now headed by "Dr. Verner".

"Verner" speaks to the assembled pregnant women and makes them an offer that has government control written all over it. They are given two choices. One is to keep the babies growing inside of them, BUT they and their children will be kept under "Scientific Observation". However, in compensation for their inconvenience. Each women will be given $3,000 a month allowance to help with their child. The second option is to have an abortion. It will not be performed by the local doctor "Alan Chaffee" that they know, BUT Government provided doctors under "Dr. Vener's" control. A question raised, again, is how much is "Dr. Susan Verner" NOT telling the women and the residents of Midwich that she knows?

A change from Wyndham occurs with the time needed for the pregnancies. The screenplay follows the normal human term of nine months. As with the 1960 film these pregnancies lead to charges of infidelity and in the case of virgin, "Melanie Roberts", played by actress Meredith Salenger. Not only is she one of the women who mysteriously became pregnant. "Melanie" is feeling the added pressure over claiming she hasn't had sex by the other residents of Midwich.

When the babies are born, all on the same day and hour, "Melanie's" is said to have been still born, but she is not permitted to see it. "Verner" has taken possession of the body. That fact adds to "Melanie's" now unstable mental state by questioning why?



 At one year of age the children start to exhibit a higher intelligence then even their parents. The five remaining boys and four girls pair off. "David" will explain to his mother that "Melanie's" still born girl was suppose to be his mate. As I mentioned "Mara", the leader of the "Children" in this picture, has explained that once they are able to reproduce. The mates will start having children aimed at the conquest of the Earth.

Two of the deaths that start happening are of the "Children's" human mothers. Implying that they have done their duty as the host of the initial invasion team. In the case of "Mara's", "Barbara Chaffee", as portrayed by Karen Kahn. She is made to walk off a beautiful seaside cliff.




The character of "David" and his relationship to his school teacher mother is a major plot point not in either the novel, or the 1960 original. While the other eight "Children" show absolutely no emotion, or empathy. "David" having lost his intended mate has become closer to his human mother and starts to show emotion. This brings him into conflict with "Mara".

The children move into an old barn for their safety. One other violent act involves the "Reverend George". Below he is at the delivery of the baby from  his own pregnant wife "Sarah" portrayed by Pippa Peartree.







 "George"  comes to consider the "Children" the devils spawn. In a variance of one of the sequences in the 1960 motion picture. "The Reverend" decides to ambush the "Children" and kill them.



As a result they have "Reverend George" turn his own rifle on himself.



Next the existence of other "Colonies" are revealed and how each was destroyed. With all the violent acts by the "Children". "Dr. Susan Verner's" scientific team leaves Midwich for their own safety, but she stays.

At this point "Mara" takes "David" and the others to "Dr. Susan Verner". The group forces "Verner" to reveal "David's" mate they knew she had.





Many critics and viewers, I admit myself included, felt this was entirely unnecessary. Again in the 1960 original film you know the "Children" are inhuman, but you never have any idea of who or what the "Father's" of the pregnancies might be for sure. That small detail added to the power of Stirling Silliphant's screenplay.

While in "John Carpenter's Village of the Dammed" in a sequence that is meant to be moving. As "David" looks upon his still born mate backfires for two reason. The first is simply that we're near the end of the motion picture and the audience has known the "Children" are alien born. So why do we need to see the still born alien female? Other than Shock Value?

The second reason is in two parts. First she looks like a stereotypical "Roswell, New Mexico" alien. The second part is the body is way too large to have come out of "Melanie Roberts'"birth canal without killing her. Was the baby still alive and experimented upon?

The real reason for the sequence is to set up the "Children's" revenge on "Dr. Susan Verner". Who they force to take a surgical scalpel and cut his stomach and birth canal open in graphic detail.

"Dr. Chaffee" decides to kill "Mara" and the others with explosives in a briefcase. "David's" mother, "Jill McGowan", convinces him to save her "Son". The doctor's original plan to save the boy was to have "David" go to his car to get a notebook, but "Mara' suspects something. As she realizes that "Chaffee: is thinking of a Brick Wall.



The wall starts to break under the "Children's" combined mental force. "David's" mother runs into the barn.



"David" and "Mara" have a small confrontation and he pushes her down. "Jill" grabs the boy and runs from the barn as the explosives go off,

The movie ends with "Jill" and "David" driving away from Midwich.

In an interview for the website "Vulture". John Carpenter has a negative feeling about his version of John Wyndham's novel:

Is there a particular project you’ve done that didn’t catch with audience but that you’re nevertheless proud of? Several, I guess [laughs]. That’s the story of my career. The Thing was a big bomb and I think that’s one of my best films. I’m really not passionate about Village of the Damned. I was getting rid of a contractual assignment, although I will say that it has a very good performance from Christopher Reeve, so there’s some value in it.
http://www.vulture.com/2011/07/john_carpenter.html

The motion picture had a budget of $22 million dollars and its domestic box office was only $9.4 million dollars. Comparing it again to the 1960 production. On the website "Rotten Tomatoes" the film only has a 27% Fresh rating.


On January 10, 1964 MGM released a motion picture made by their British studio. The motion picture was the very good "Children of the Damned". Within the opening credits it mentions that the film is a "Sequel" not to the motion picture "Village of the Damned", but rather John Wyndham's 1957 "Midwich Cuckoos".

Below one of the U,K, posters with it's "X Certificate" rating. No one under 16 years of age permitted.



Below one of the United States posters and as with 1960's "Village of the Damned". There was no age restrictions in the United States.




The screenplay for "Children of the Damned" was by American writer John Richard Briley. This was his fourth screenplay and in 1982 Briley would win the Best Screenplay Oscar for "Gandhi".

The movie follows UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) researchers. This team is investigating child development around the world. Portraying the two main British researchers are:

Ian Hendry is "Colonel Tom Lewellin".



For American fans of the British television series "The Avengers". You probably know Patrick Macnee as "John Steed", but unless you have acquired the very first season from 1961. You would not know that the main character was "Dr. David Keel" portrayed by Henry and "Steed" assisted him. Henry left the series after that first season. In the United States he was seen only in 1959's "Room at the Top" starring Lawrence Harvey and Simone Signoret, before this picture. The next time American's would see the actor was in the 1969 Science Fiction film "Journey to the Far Side of the Sun".

"Doctor David Neville" was portrayed by Alan Badel.

 

Like Ian Henry the actor was seen mostly in the U.K.. His next appearance in the United States would be in the 1970 motion picture version of author Harold Robbins "The Adventurers".In 1973 he was seen in the original version of Frederick Forsyth's novel "The Day of the Jackal". In 1977 he appeared in the Charles Bronson motion picture "Telefon".

Portraying "Paul Looran" was Clive Powell. I couldn't find any information about him before, or beyond this motion picture.



"Paul's" mother "Diana Looran" was portrayed by Sheila Allen.



Besides this motion picture. Allen is known for 1972's "The Poseidon Adventure" and 1974's "The Towering Inferno". She also appeared on television in "Lost in Space", "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" and "Land of the Giants". All made by her husband Irwin Allen.

"Paul's" "Aunt Susan Eliot" was portrayed by Barbara Ferris.



Portraying "Colin Webster" was Alfred Burke.



This sequel (?) to the Wyndham novel starts at a major London University with some boys being given a puzzle made of blocks with uneven sides and shapes/ Correctly assembled they form a large rectangle. Psychologist "Tom Lewellin" has called Geneticist "David Neville" to witness the test. The puzzle took "Dr. Neville" several hours to figure it out and "Paul" does it in minutes. After the test is completed. The two go to visit "Paul"s" mother "Diana Loonan".

She doesn't want anything to do with the two men and considers her "Son" a monster. After the two men  leave her apartment. "Paul" comes out of his room and mentally makes his mother go out into the street. She keeps walking in a trance through traffic until she is hit by a truck.

"Tom Lewellin" and "David Neville" visit "Diana Loonan". She is in a hospital bed in traction with casts on her arms and legs. "Diana" tells them that she was never touched by a man and there is no father. Both men thinks "Diana" might be a little touched. Going back to talk to "Paul" the two men meet his "Aunt Susan". They ask her, if she could bring him around to the University the following day. She does and the boy overhears a discussion about his abilities between UNESCO officials that should be out of a human's normal hearing range.

"Neville" and "Lewellin" share a flat together. When there is a knock at the door and government operative "Colin Webster" shows up. He knows all about the boy and tells the other two that there are five other children in different countries. All able to perform the puzzle test with the same speed.

The five other children come from the United States, the Soviet Union, China, India and Nigeria. Their mothers change the subject of a father when questioned. All six children were born on the same day. The other five children are brought to their own  countries Embassies in London. They all have the same off the charts IQ as "Paul" and the American seems to exhibit mind control of his pet dog.

Late that night while "Neville" and "Lewellin" have gone to sleep. "Webster" attempts to take "Paul", but before this happens the boy sees him and two other men. "Paul" mentally has "Susan" call "Lewellan" and "Neville" for help. They arrive to stop "Webster", but "Paul" disappears.

The next day "Paul" walks past each Embassy and one by one. Each of the five other "Children" join him and recognize the boy as their leader. They then go to an abandoned church and mentally send for "Susan" to take care of them.



The "Children's"  respective countries want the six captured so they can use their powers. "Cold War" politics and paranoia become forefront. The six built a complex machine that uses sonic waves for their defense and is attached to the church's old pipe organ.

As with the "Children" in "Village of the Damned"/ The eyes of the six glow when they use there mental powers.



The machine is put to use as they are attacked by a group of men in the church. "Paul" sends a mental message to "Lewellin" and "Neville". "Webster" is in a car watching the church and tells the other two who have spotted him. That whomever is in the church did not come from him. The three along with some soldiers go into the church and are assailed by the sonic waves that are killing the original men. A shoot out occurs and the Indian boy "Harib" is accidentally shot and killed. However, they will not let his body be taken and he is placed on a church table under their guard.




"Dr. Neville" has a sample of "Harib's" blood. He shows the head of UNESCO, "Lewellin" and a scientist the difference to human blood and what happens when the two are mixed. "Harib's" absorbs the human blood changing it into his own.  An argument happens between "Lewellin" who is attempting to defend the "Children" by pointing out they only defend themselves when attacked. He is overruled and the military is called in to deal with them, because the six are a potential threat to the human race.

'Lewellian" goes to the church and speaks to the "Children" and "Susan". He asks "Paul" What he wants? The boy replies he doesn't know. Apparently the six haven't figured out their purpose yet. He leaves.




Explosives are placed under the church and wired to a control panel in another building. Armed soldiers are placed around the church. The scientist that was present during the blood test tracks "Lewellin" down and speculates that he has figured out what the "Children" are. They are the human race a Million Years in the Future. They are us!

"Lewellian" and "Susan", having been released by "Paul", go to the military command inside a building overlooking the church. The control panel is just being completed as a soldier is screwing in the last connections with a screwdriver. He responds that its connected leaving the screwdriver on the top of the panel.

"Lewellian" outside of the command center speaks to the head of UNESCO and the representatives of the Embassies. As "Neville" watches they all go toward the church and with a bull horn call for "Paul" to come out and talk. The Military Commander starts the countdown to fire both the soldiers weapons at the church and blow it up. "Neville" tells him to look and he stops the countdown as from inside the church not only "Paul" comes out, but the others including a now alive "Harib".

The head of UNESCO asks "Paul" once more. What does he want and this time he replies:
TO BE DESTROYED!

Just then the man at the panel moves his hand slightly and the screwdriver rolls down moving the switch that sends out the signal to open fire. Havoc reigns supreme as everyone opens fire, the Military Commander is trying to stop the act, the head of UNESCO and the others are being shot and finally the leader of the group with the detonator for the explosives pushes the man frozen in fear of what he's doing to "Children" away. As he yells at him they have the command signal to fire and pushes the plunger down and blows up the church and the children inside.

Some critics thought the film was a little slow and boring at times. Others praised it for a very intelligent story. Once again on Rotten Tomatoes the film maintains a Freshness score of 75%. I recommend both the 1960 "Village of the Damned" and the 1964 "Children of the Damned". Back in 2004 I purchased both movies, from my youth, on a double DVD. As of this writing the DVD is still available.

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